May 1st is International Labor Day. Throughout the world people celebrate the gift and value of work.
In light of that, on May 1st the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker.
Since 1881, and Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical letter, On the Condition of Human Labor, the Church has celebrated the worker and work and one’s right to work.
This letter of Pope Leo was the impetus for the vocation of a young boy in Vermillion, Minnesota, John A. Ryan (1886-1945).
John became a priest of our Archdiocese and later a teacher at the Catholic University of America. His brother Lawrence became pastor of the Saint Paul Cathedral.
John relentlessly promoted the rights of workers. He became a close friend of Frances Perkins, the Secretary of Labor for FDR. Through this friendship John was able to influence and participate in the creation of the outcome of the New Deal – the National Labor Relations Board, the Child Labor Laws, the right to unionize, the Living Wage, the Forty-hour workweek, the solidifying of Social Security, and so much more.
He became known as “The Right Reverend New Dealer”. All of these accomplishments were the working out of the implications of Pope Leo’s letter, On the Condition of Human Labor.
John Ryan’s efforts contributed to the security and prosperity of working families. US workers achieved the right to participate with management is negotiating fair and just wages and working conditions.
My father was a member of the International Typographical Union, so supper conversation was often on “that great John A. Ryan”.
Pray this week that all people might have the right to work and use their God given talents for their good and the good of others.
Fr. Steve Adrian